Background: My old project manager (worked on this project for 8 months) got deployed to a client site. The new manager has been working on the project for the past month. He is coming in at the very end, so I imagine he has a lot of pressure from upper management to get the project done (which is already 4 months overdue).

The situation with him is that he is giving me mixed messages, as well as being generally hostile or demeaning. It's hard for me to properly give the tone he has in the following situations, so just assume the statements he directed towards me had a hostile undertone.

Situation #1: He came to my desk and began the conversation saying things like "What are you doing?", "How many tickets have you closed in the past 2 weeks?", "Why are there so many open tickets?", "What is taking so long?". My response was initially amicable, and as the conversation went on I got a little defensive as it seemed like my performance was being questioned. I later went up to him to apologize for getting on the defensive, and asked if he was trying to get a big-picture understanding of everything, or if my performance in particular was being questioned. He explained it was the former. A few minutes later he called me aside into a room to explain to me that I should "do things as I'm told, and not to push back".

Situation #2: Our team was told in three different instances to do things three different ways. Now we need to redo a lot of the past effort as we are being told to do them in a way closer to the second instance. Project manager pulls me personally aside and asks me "Why did this get to this point?", "Who approved these decisions?" which I gave clear answers to, indicating that I was doing as the previous project manager told us to do them. He then began to say things like "This is what I would expect from a coop student, not someone with a few years of experience", "Maybe in a few years you'll do better", "You should have taken initiative and done them the way you thought was the best", "Just take personal responsibility for this problem". Luckily someone with more authority than me (project lead) overheard this and defended me, at which point the project manager backed down and took the lead's (my) side.

As you can see I'm getting two contradicting statements in a relatively short time period (these talks were about a week apart). I'm worried that in the end I'm going to be used as as scapegoat for shortcomings in the project (there are 4 other developers, who he is not having these discussions with).

As far as I can tell, I have 3 options here and I would like some advice.

1) Talk with the project manager again and try to clarify what he expects of me, and in this, I am unsure how I would word that conversation as he gets extremely defensive and tries to push blame onto others.

2) Talk with my direct boss who is above the project manager about getting mixed signals from him, and also inform him that I am detecting hostility and that I am looking for guidance on how to approach the situation.

3) Keep a log of everything that's happened, and go back and document each interaction I've had with the new project manager. So when performance review time comes around, if this particular project manager has given me a bad review, I can at least defend myself and back my claims up with "tangible" evidence.

There could be other options I haven't thought about, so please feel free to let me know if there is something else I could try, or a combination of these options.. I'm at a loss in this situation how to approach it

Edit: I know it seems like I might be being just too sensitive, but I've been used a scapegoat before in a previous workplace. I'm really just trying to cover my bases for the remainder of this project, and for when my performance review comes up. I don't want this bad project manager to affect my career in the long or short run.


I followed Myles' advice and created a document describing the situation, with timelines and quotations. I secondly had a meeting with my project manager where I cleared the air about his expectations, and he also apologized for his behaviour. It seems that a big reason for this hostility is that it wasn't meant to be personally directed towards me, but more frustrated in the situation he's been put in and was taking it out on me. I will still detail this meeting in my notes just in case, but I am not going to email him as it seems to have been worked out for the time being.


1 Answer 1


In my view the correct way to go is both your option 1 as a proactive step and option 3 as a reactive step.

Clarify all expectations from the current PM. Approach him from the angle of "There seems to be a misalignment of expectations of me and that creates a risk for the project. For the sake of the project I'd like to make sure we are on the same page so far as expectations go." Coming from this angle helps in two ways. First is face value clarification of what is expected and second is that it makes you harder to throw under the bus (especially if you document all points of this meeting and email it to him) because it takes away his ability to blindside you with "you didn't meet expectations".

As additional protection document every interaction with both the previous PM and the current one. If you feel like you are going to be thrown under the bus at some point, your shield is documenting all direction you have received so you can support the decisions you made with those directions.


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